The United States (US) has expressed concern over the judgement against Odhikar secretary Adilur Rahman Khan and its director ASM Nasiruddin Elan.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the US embassy in Dhaka said the judgement -- imprisonment of the duo for two years -- may further undermine the willingness of human rights defenders and civil society to play their vital democratic role.
“We continue to support freedom of expression and a vibrant civil society as essential elements of democracy and oppose attempts to limit the exercise of those fundamental and basic rights,” it said.
The statement noted the role of Odhikar in monitoring and reporting the human rights situation in Bangladesh for decades, regardless of who was in power.
The US strongly supports the role that human rights defenders and civil society organisations play in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms
The embassy reiterated their support to the human rights defenders here, saying, “The US strongly supports the role that human rights defenders and civil society organisations play in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
It further said the US’ 2022 country report on human rights in Bangladesh highlighted “significant limitations on freedom of expression both online and offline” and noted that human rights groups “operated with significant government restrictions.”
Earlier on the day, a court in Dhaka sentenced Adilur Rahman Khan and ASM Nasiruddin Elan to two-year imprisonment, for spreading untrue and fabricated information over the operation on Hefazat men in the capital’s Shapla Chattar area a decade ago. They were also fined Tk 10,000 each.
AM Zulfiqar Hayat, a judge of Dhaka cyber tribunal, handed down the verdict on Thursday, said Nazrul Islam, the tribunal’s special public prosecutor. The duo was sent to the prison following the verdict.
The court completed the hearing process of the case on 24 August and fixed 7 September for delivering its judgment. Later, it set 14 September for the announcement of the verdict.
A case was filed against the duo, on allegation of spreading untrue and fabricated information regarding the law enforcers’ operation on the rally of Hefazat-e Islam on 5 May 2013.
Adilur was arrested in the case on 10 August 2013 and was placed on a five-day remand. Later, the police, with permission of the court, searched the Odhikar office and seized two computers and two laptops.